The Public Works Nerds

Challenges and Solutions for Water Service Line Inventory with Chelsea Alger and Dave Malm

January 02, 2024 Marc Culver, PE Season 2 Episode 1
The Public Works Nerds
Challenges and Solutions for Water Service Line Inventory with Chelsea Alger and Dave Malm
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Unlock the secrets of how cities are combatting the pernicious issue of lead in our drinking water, as Chelsea Alger and Dave Malm from Bolton & Menk join us to dissect the monumental task of lead service line replacement. With the Flint water crisis still fresh in our memories, we explore the complexities of updating water service inventories, the power of GIS technology in this process, and the urgency of securing public funds for these life-essential projects. Chelsea and Dave bring a treasure trove of knowledge, providing an insider's look into the reality of preparing for regulatory deadlines and the scarcity of qualified personnel to undertake such a significant endeavor.

Listen in and learn about available funding and tools for inventory compliance, as well as where we stand in the inventory process. We also talk about the proposed rule change to require replacement of lead service lines within 10 years.

Show Notes:
Lead Service Line Presentation at MN APWA Fall Conference – David Malm and Chelsea Alger, Bolton & Menk, Inc.
 https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Luu_RfF-plgcQwpgYO-M6gpKxjY520Zf/view?usp=sharing

Timeline of Flint, MI water crisis
 https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/04/20/465545378/lead-laced-water-in-flint-a-step-by-step-look-at-the-makings-of-a-crisis

EPA Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) – Final Rule Effective 6/17/2021 – Rule making docket link
 https://www.regulations.gov/docket/EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0300/unified-agenda

EPA 
 https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/revised-lead-and-copper-rule 

Minnesota EPA
 https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/water/rules/servlineinventory.html

Iowa

https://www.iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Water-Quality/Drinking-Water-Compliance/Lead-Service-Line-Inventories

 

North Carolina
Lead Service Line Inventory | NC DEQ

 South Carolina
Revised Lead and Copper Rule | US EPA

 North Dakota
Lead & Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR) - North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality (nd.gov)

 Wisconsin
Lead Service Line (LSL) Replacements | | Wisconsin DNR

 Arizona
Lead and Copper Rule | Drinking Water Compliance Assistance | ADEQ (azdeq.gov)

 Colorado
Drinking water Lead and Copper Rule & Revisions | Department of Public Health & Environment (colorado.gov)

 Missouri

Lead Service Line Inventory | Missouri Department of Natural Resources (mo.gov)

 

South Dakota

SD Water Pipes | Lead Service Line Inventory | South Dakota

 

Alabama<&

David Malm:

Welcome to the Public Works Nerds podcast.

Marc Culver:

Welcome to the Public Works Nerds podcast, a Public Works podcast of the nerds, by the nerds and for the nerds. I'm your host, Marc Culver. Thanks for joining us. We're back here into our second season and we're going to be talking about water service lines today, specifically potential lead service lines. This is a little bit of a background before we introduce our guests into this. A little bit of background into this issue. Just over four years ago, largely in response to the Flint Michigan water crisis, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed changes to the lead and copper rule, which was originally established in 1991. While the original rule established maximum allowable levels of contaminants such as lead in drinking water, the new rule revisions required all drinking water suppliers to inventory the material of all water service lines, public or private, that carry water from public drinking water systems. This was the intent of eventually replacing all existing lead service lines. In November of last year 2023, the EPA released a proposed rule revision which would require the replacement of all lead service lines within 10 years. As of the recording of this podcast, that rule revision is out for public comment and we're not quite sure when that's going to be implemented, but it's out there and it's likely going to become a rule I don't know in the next year, year and a half or so. So we'll watch to see what happens with that and when that becomes effective. But in the meantime we do have some deadlines and actions for inventory of the lead service line. So to talk about this and to get into it and to nerd out about this issue, we're joined today by Chelsea Alger and Dave Malm from Bolton and Menk. I'll let them introduce themselves and their roles and then we'll dive into the issue. So, chelsea, why don't you start?

Chelsea Alger:

Sure, thanks for having me here. I'm Chelsea Alger. I'm the director of funding for Bolton and Menk. I've been with the firm just under five years. I've been in this role less than a year, but prior to that I worked extensively or I would say almost exclusively with the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority, helping our clients secure public dollars for water and sewer system improvements. The Public Facilities Authority is also the agency that's managing all of the lead service line replacement dollars. So I know later on we'll talk a little bit more about that and the process for securing those funds. So thanks for having me.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, thanks for joining us, and Dave.

David Malm:

Yeah, dave Malm, I'm a GIS project manager with Bolton and Menk. I am responsible for managing GIS for all of our clients in the Twin Cities metro area, southeast Minnesota and, for now, also the Des Moines metropolitan area as well, along with a few different technology related pursuits in the company and things along those lines. I've been with the company almost nine years now and, yeah, that's where I'm at. Okay, well, great.

Marc Culver:

Well, thanks for joining us, and I know both of you made a presentation locally here. That's where I saw this and kind of got the idea hey it'd be great to bring you two on and talk about this really relevant issue to everybody in the United States, right? Well, these are all water providers in the United States, so let's jump into that and we'll start with you, dave, let's just kind of talk a little bit more about the background of where we are and what are water utilities or water providers required to do on this inventory.

David Malm:

Yeah. So the EPA's rural revisions, as they've kind of rolled out, have continued to provide guidance on what these systems need to do and as they've kind of come up with different requirements, we've tried to pivot and kind of make sure that we're able to help our clients meet those. As of today, the requirement is that every water system needs to inventory every single water service line that they have and state what material it is and also prove it.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, and, as you were saying, I was thinking in my mind how do I frame this? What are water providers going to have to do to prove what the service line?

Bolton & Menk:

is Because you can't just say well, if it was installed after 1986,.

Marc Culver:

Well then it's copper.

David Malm:

Well, you can actually yeah. But you have to be able to show that you know that it was installed after 1986. Yeah, there's a few different ways you can do that. You could be with records right from a construction records or an inspection record or a. It could even be like when was the subdivision platted right? Because then you have a date on it and choose to be a document of some sort. Many areas have parcel information that have when the structure was built in it. If that's after that date, that's an acceptable documentation, because we're assuming that the proper records have been kept somewhere and that we can document that. So as long as you can prove that that's when it was constructed, that's good enough.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, so for a lot of communities that probably blew up in the late 80s and the 90s, they're probably pretty good just as far as, like you said, as long as they have those records showing when their water mains were built and when the structures were built, then they're probably in pretty good shape from an inventory perspective.

David Malm:

Correct. Yeah, so in 1986 is because that is when the laws passed and it was no longer acceptable or allowable to have lead pipes.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, yeah, but it seems to me that in Minnesota and I don't know exactly when in Minnesota contractors stopped or cities stopped allowing lead service lines to go in, but I'm thinking that happened well before 1986 in Minnesota In many cases it did, but there's not a good paper trail on that.

David Malm:

in a lot of places that we found in terms of talking to different communities and different water service providers, they don't have a handle on when that was. So, in the absence of an ordinance or some sort of plumbing code that you can point to, that is a document that is historical that you have. It's not a way, it's not a good option to prove that, because you have to provide that proof and it's one of those things where everybody knows that, which is great, but you got to know that.

Marc Culver:

But how do you prove that knowledge Correct? Yeah, what's kind of interesting was when I was at Roseville and we were first starting to talk about this, I went back and started looking at our tie cards. Yes, you're not familiar with the term. Tie cards is whenever we install water or sewer services, we would have a little card that showed you approximately where the lines were tied off on dimensions of corners of buildings or other monuments or something, and so you could locate them when you're going to do a locate or do some excavation. And I was hoping that those tie cards would say the material and they would say the size. They would say how deep it was installed in a lot of cases, but it was probably only about 10 to 20% that would name out the or call out the material, unfortunately. So that would have been nice.

David Malm:

Would have been great yeah.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, but incomplete on that as well. So what are? How are communities doing this inventory then? Because? It's a pretty mammoth task for some communities.

David Malm:

It is, and one of the problems is that a lot of communities have is they don't have a lot of records, especially smaller communities, and the question is where do we start? Yeah. And it's with any task and mean. It happens to me when I've got a project at home, Like I don't. It's hard to get started when you don't know what you're supposed to do or where to even begin. And that's kind of where we're hopefully being able to help people, and I'm the GIS guy, so obviously the way to place the start is with GIS, Of course. Yeah, it's a great easy way to to maintain those records right, To show spatial locations and to tie records to those, those, those things. So you know, if nothing else, we can get parcel data. You know where there's parcels. We know that there's. You know we can see if there's a structure on that parcel and if there is there's decent chance there might be a water connection. And if we start there, great you know. If we have billing records from your system with addresses on it, even better. We can geolocate those. So really, the first step is figuring out, where might there be a connection, so, and then you can go from there.

Marc Culver:

And just to clarify again, just highlighting that we're talking about service lines that are connected to public water systems. So if you're on a sept or you're on your own, well, you're not subject to this requirement or this inventory. Correct, that's right, thank you. All right, so let's talk about let's get into the specifics some of the details. Let's nerd out a little bit about some of those GIS tools that are available for communities to use for this inventory.

David Malm:

Yeah, so one of the great things is that. So Esri has stayed on top of what the requirements are from the EPA and they have developed a what they call a deployable solution that provides a framework from which to meet all of the requirements of the EPA and, as the rule has evolved, they've also evolved that particular tool so that tool is available to anyone who has a subscription to ArcGIS Online, which is a fairly low barrier for folks to get involved in terms of what a community needs to do that, and it allows you to map out all of your connections. It provides a really easy way to document their location, material size, any other information that you might have, and also provide a framework for attaching those documents of proof and then really tracking that through dashboards, providing public insight into the process, which is another requirement. Right, you have to be able to show your progress and be able to communicate that to the public. It provides ways for folks in the field to get out and do inspections really quickly and easily on your phone, on a tablet, take pictures if needed. There's even a survey that can be sent out to residents to go ahead and do some self-inspection potentially as well, and it's all fairly simply and easily deployed through the GIS system, and that's really where we are starting out for folks, and recommending where they begin is making use of those tools, because they're already there. There's no need to reinvent the wheel on it. There are already people working on that for you.

Marc Culver:

So if you were starting as if you were a community that didn't have GIS yeah, like you were completely starting from scratch here how simple would it be, or how much time do you think it would be, to kind of create a GIS base map, import the parcel data, hopefully from your county or something, and then get going on this?

David Malm:

So for a experienced GIS professional to come in and start that from scratch. We figure it's probably 20 to 30 hours of work give or take to get everything up and running and that would get you all the way to the point of being able to. We're ready to roll with document inspection sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on the size of the community and that goes from the beginning of reaching out to get the subscription started from Esri, all the way through having everything deployed and customized and ready to go for your staff to actually do the inventory process.

Marc Culver:

Cool. So where do you think most communities are with this? This deadline is less than a year away, Yep, and we were talking offline and you said, well, and that's the deadline for the EPA to actually report the results to the US government. The US. Epa right. So the communities need to report theirs sooner than October 2024 to the state EPA. So where do you think we are with this?

David Malm:

We are behind. Yeah, it is a massive undertaking that I think most people have underestimated from the get-go, and I think there's a lot of folks. When they first heard about these rules, the thought process was well, we don't have lead here, we don't have much lead, I don't even need to worry about it, without taking into account the fact that you gotta prove it Right and there's a process to prove it and there's a certain format that they want those records in to be able to prove it, and so now that folks are starting to realize that that is a requirement and what they need to do, it's a bit of a scramble, quite frankly, most communities, regardless of size, do not have the staff, the manpower or the expertise to try and do this themselves Right, and the closer we get to deadlines, the less hours in the day there are to get things done, and there's only so many people in the world that are able to do these things, so it's gonna be a challenge for a lot of communities to meet those deadlines.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, that's gonna be interesting, particularly with the replacement requirements or mandates likely coming down the pipe as well. No pun intended, you know it'll be. What'll be interesting is, I think clearly there's going to be a large segment that doesn't have the inventory complete, but there will be some communities that do, or at least largely. Like I know, st Paul doesn't have their full inventory complete, but they probably know about 90% of their system because it's so old. They just know it's lad and so they've already started replacing their service lines.

David Malm:

So I guess kind of maybe lead into that is like how does this then transition from inventory to replacement and yeah, and talking about St Paul, and there are other communities too that have they saw this coming and I mean just being proactive themselves in response to what happened in Flint. I know Duluth, for example, duluth, minnesota, has been proactive already in their already have a replacement process and they were ahead of the game in terms of getting a handle on what they have. So there are cities that are well down the line, but a lot of them are the cities that have a lot to do anyway, yeah. So rolling through the inventory to the replacement process, going back to GIS again, one of the benefits of having everything tracked and documented in GIS is that it also rolls directly into that replacement tracking. So once you have everything documented, you can then roll right back into the tracking process as you go through the replacement process. And one of the great things about that is the spatial nature of it. Right, having a replacement plan can be while we're gonna replace these, as we do reconstruction reconstruction throughout the city. Well, if I can see, while we've got a whole bunch of lead service lines over here, maybe when I do my capital improvement plan we bump that area up a little bit in importance to make sure that we're hitting that sooner rather than later. And being able to implement that from a spatial standpoint and bring that into along with all the other data points you use to make those decisions can be very helpful for folks as well.

Marc Culver:

Yeah.

David Malm:

Yeah.

Marc Culver:

And I also wanna as we and we're gonna transition here into how we're gonna pay for all this stuff in a second but as we talk about the lead service lines, we talk about why we're doing this and the horrible event in Flint Michigan I also wanna say that lead is not a great thing to run water through, but it's been something that has been done for literally centuries. I mean, since the Romans started having public water systems, we were using lead or derivatives of it to do this, because it's such a malleable material and it just readily available. And in fact I was leading some background on this and it kind of hit me the chemical symbol for lead is PB, because of plumbing. I mean, that's kind of the background of it and the genesis of that.

David Malm:

Well, and it's interesting because the Flint crisis didn't happen until they switched their water source, which is what upset the entire process.

Marc Culver:

So, yeah, it's been fine and can be, but yeah, it's yeah, so I think, and again, the nerds that are listening to this public works nerds aren't freaking out about this that they're being poisoned Because it's something that I mean. I raised two kids in a house that has a lead service line. I live in St Paul. I know I have a lead service line and they're fine. I mean mostly. I mean. I think I'm okay mostly, but I don't think they were. In fact, I don't think they were poisoned by lead, and that's the case in the vast majority of these lead service lines is if the water utility knows they're out there and they're doing things to. They're not putting corrosive water through the pipes. They're putting in some other chemicals in there to make sure that the lead is sealed in there and isn't being corroded out. So there are precautions that are being taken to keep it safe. It's just like you said. In Flint Michigan they changed their water source and all of a sudden that corrosiveness was happening and that's when the lead was leaching into the water, which is horrible. Hey everyone, I just wanna take a quick moment to thank our sponsor, boltman Bank, who is producing and editing our podcast.

Bolton & Menk:

At Bolton Mink, we believe all people should live in a safe, sustainable and beautiful community. We promise every client two things We'll work hard for you and we'll do a good job. We take a personal interest in the work being done around us and, at the end of the day, we're real people offering real solutions.

Marc Culver:

But yeah, but it's. I think it's just one of those things like we can't trust ourselves anymore and you know, we know too much, so let's just get them out of the ground and put something safe in there. So, which is a mammoth task and it's going to cost a lot of money, which is a great segue into how we're paying for this. Now, we're all used to unfunded mandates. I mean, it happens and I think the inventory mandate was probably kind of an unfunded one at the beginning and a lot of communities are doing this on their own dime and I think a lot of communities recognize that there is benefit of this, outside of the lead thing, that hey, let's just find out how you know what materials are, services, how old they are, let's inventory them. This is good, regardless of the lead thing or not. But what funding is available? What has changed? What has become available to help communities with these mandates?

Chelsea Alger:

Sure. So I think, starting at the federal level that acronym we hear thrown around IJA or EJA, depending on who's saying it the Infrastructure, investment and Jobs Act. They are and again I'm going to speak specific to Minnesota in this case because I know the information better than other areas they are providing like $43.2 million for five years to address lead issues, both inventory and replacement, and so 10% of that annually is going towards these inventory tasks that Dave has been talking about. In addition to that, the Minnesota legislature in the last session allocated $240 million towards the replacement and inventory effort. 10% of that, or $24 million, was going towards these inventory replacements. So, just as I'm sorry I said, inventory, replacement, inventory tasks. Yeah. So, starting out this year about $28 million towards lead service line inventories. So then the Department of Health was tasked with creating structure around a program that would get money to help communities do these inventories looking at records, doing door-to-door outreach GIS tasks that Dave is talking about, developing replacement plans. The challenge, of course, as we all know, working through the structures of statutory and federal codes is it takes time to do so. As they have gone through this process of trying to develop guidelines for issuing the funding. It's taking more and more time. And here we are in December, 10 months before the deadline of the inventories, and most of our communities that are trying to get the inventory money to do the work are still waiting and we're still waiting to start the work because we can't start until we have the work orders. So there is the $28 million out there. They did an application process they, meaning the Department of Health back in July were still in the first wave of applications that they're getting through, which is the zero to 300 connection. So the money is focused on the smaller communities who likely have fewer records, fewer resources and staff to complete this work, and Bolton and Mink, as a sidebar, would be a contractor that went through an RFP process to be approved as a firm that can complete these inventories. So I think there's about 18 firms on the list. The Department of Health received about 450 applications for inventory assistance. 138 of those systems identified Bolton and Mink as the preferred consultant to work on these. So not only is Department of Health trying to get their funding, you know, structured and out the door, meaning to these firms to complete the work. We as an approved firm are also trying to do work in tandem with this to prepare for the inventory tasks that need to take place before really July. Department of Health has put a deadline of July to get the inventory so they can take the data and they can turn around and report it to the EPA by October. So on the inventory side that's where things are sitting right now we're still waiting for the work orders. Not only that, all of our systems 300 connections and above those are still being processed through the Department of Health.

Marc Culver:

And they have the same deadline.

Chelsea Alger:

They have the same deadline.

Marc Culver:

Yes.

Chelsea Alger:

And they recognize the challenge that is becoming of increased urgency with each day, ticket Day ticking by. So I wish we were sitting here today talking about some you know lessons learned going through some of this inventory work. But we're still waiting. I mean, I know we've done some inventory work outside of the structure of this inventory grant but we don't have any tangible stories to share yet about going through that process of you know doing the inventory work per the Department of Health guidelines, getting the funding, submitting those records to the state for them to turn around and provide to the EPA, Just out of curiosity this is something that popped in my mind.

Marc Culver:

What format is this reporting occurring in? Is it just like a big spreadsheet?

David Malm:

So initially that's what they were going to ask for and luckily they did turn around and say that they are accepting at least in Minnesota they are accepting GIS database of data Like a shape file. File, geodatabase with attachments and everything. Yeah, so, but I mean, if we needed to report as a spreadsheet which I believe in Iowa is the requirement, it is, we can format it that way to be able to export that quickly and easily so we can use the same process.

Marc Culver:

So when you export the spreadsheet into a spreadsheet. Do you maintain coordinates in the spreadsheet then too?

David Malm:

Yes, you can have XY coordinates in there. The requirement is technically. It says you need a location, so an address will do but would probably provide all of the above.

Marc Culver:

Interesting, and it's also very interesting that there's a difference Just from state to state. No offense to our nerds down in Mississippi or Alabama or whatever, but I wonder what's happening there.

David Malm:

Well, I think one of the things that we're lucky here in Minnesota is that we have had historically a very strong statewide support for GIS data and open data as a whole, even just the fact that we have generally partial data available statewide that's easy to access. There's a state law about public government agencies sharing that digital data back and forth, and things like that, and that's just not the case in a lot of places, which makes well, I'm sure, makes this process much more difficult to even get started, right, you know I talked about, oh, we just need partial data. Well, that's not. That doesn't exist everywhere. I know there's plenty of places there. It's going to be much more difficult even just hit square one, right.

Marc Culver:

Right. So, chelsea, given your experience or you know just what you know and your previous life in that, what do you think's going to happen here? I mean come July?

Chelsea Alger:

Well I'm going to. What I didn't point out earlier is prior to Bolton and Mink I worked in the public sector municipal government in Minnesota. I recall the retro reflectivity requirements that they were that came, you know, in Poland. For signs yes, for signs and such unfunded mandate, and then high level of urgency, and then all of a sudden it wasn't there anymore. Now I'm not anticipating the lead service line.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, because this is a little different. It's a little bit different yeah.

Chelsea Alger:

Yeah, and I don't know if this is just because you know, I feel like it's really going to be an insurmountable task to get everything done by October. And in Minnesota, like Dave was mentioning, with GIS. Same on the funding side. Our legislature has historically supported public infrastructure very well compared to other areas. So they are providing this additional you know, $240 million out of this last legislative session. Who knows what will happen in the next legislative session? Because I know that what's been allocated will not cover the need. We aren't necessarily seeing that in the other areas that we cover, and probably other states and beyond. So you're asking people to provide data that they would find as perhaps private to them or what you want. To come in my house and look at what I have, oh, and then I have to replace it if I don't have the correct thing and you don't have any money for me to replace it, right. So it feels like this cascading. We need to come up with some more support and framework around how this is really going to get addressed, or I don't know. I mean, what is the repercussion in October?

Marc Culver:

Yeah, what is the penalty here if you don't provide your inventory? I don't think anybody knows.

Chelsea Alger:

I don't think anybody knows it's not defined at this point.

David Malm:

No.

Marc Culver:

It's just a stern, look yeah.

David Malm:

With a lot of what we've seen so far. I feel like it's we don't like to say it this way, but everyone's making it up as they go along and I think everyone has the same ultimate goal of everybody's on board with wanting to remove lead, and I think it's going to be as the challenges present themselves and are communicated up. I'm sure there will be, hopefully, adjustments made as we go.

Chelsea Alger:

I mean, we're still trying to move forward with the understanding we got to get this taken care of by the deadline, and we're trying to do everything we can to make sure that happens, but in reality, I just don't know how that's going to shake out in the time frame that we have Well, particularly if they don't release the funding?

Marc Culver:

Yeah, because there are some communities that just don't have the money and unfortunately, in the case this is the case with a lot of funding, either from federal or bonding you can't be reimbursed for previous expenses, correct. So it's not like okay, well, let's just start doing the work, we'll get paid back for this. No, unfortunately, that's against the rules.

David Malm:

So one of the one of the I guess maybe good things that the EPA has built into the rule at this point is that it is acceptable to report back to them that you don't know Unknown is an acceptable classification for a water service line. That's interesting. Lead, non-lead, galvanized and unknown are the four categories that are acceptable. However, what does that? Unknown is treated as if it is lead. Ah, so when the replacement plan time comes around or you have a situation that triggers the need to implement through your placement plan, your anything marked as unknown must be included in that plan for whatever percentage of pipes that need to be replaced, based on your size or based on what all of the requirements, anything unknown is included in that. So it behooves you to not have a lot of unknowns. However you know you can report those as unknown and then continue along in the process and inventorying to update as you go. So I think that's where a lot of folks are going to land on this, assuming that there's a continued mandate to do so, right.

Marc Culver:

Right, so it's not going to help with the estimates or the conversations of how much funding are we going to need to solve this problem, to have all these unknowns out there.

David Malm:

But I think that's you know. When we talk about this, the new 10 year replacement requirement that's one of those things that pops into my head is okay, great. How are you going to fund that when you don't know how many you have to replace, because people haven't had enough time to complete their inventory or been given the funds to actually perform the inventory? So how do we know how to fund the replacement when you have no idea how many to replace? Right yeah.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, it's a. This is a very complex issue. I mean it's on the surface. It seems so simple.

David Malm:

I'll just replace all the left pipes.

Marc Culver:

That's no problem, but we'll find them and then we have to pay for them and then you know, I think, what I don't, what I don't think a lot of people know, and I think our nerds know this at least the vast majority of the public works nerds know this is the ownership of these service lines is very complicated and it just shocks me in just in Minnesota and I'm not familiar enough with the rest of the country to know what the ownership model is in other states, but just in Minnesota it's it widely varies of who owns that service line and where the ownership changes. I would say probably the most typical situation is that it is public up to the curb stop or to the valve and then it's private. But that's not a lot of communities. It's private all the way to the main. In some at St Paul actually might be this way. I know they were this way with their service, their sewer lines. It ends at the property line, which makes no sense at all because you don't know. Most. The vast majority of people out there could point where the property line is. You know on their property. So how are they supposed to know without doing a survey of where the public ownership and private ownership ends on a line. But that's where it gets really complicated. You kind of touched on this, chelsea. As far as well, I don't want you in my home. You know, and I know in Minnesota and the cold weather states we we have to go inside of the home to see, and we were used to doing that because that's what our where, our meters are. And so there's a Most people, most people, have had some sort of experience with the city asking for permission to come into their home for something to change, change the meter, replace a radio or whatever, and sort of come in and look at the service line isn't like completely out of bounds. But in the southern states, where the meters are in the street or you know, maybe you know in some sort of meter box On a sidewalk or in the grass somewhere or something, they're not used to people coming into their homes, no, and so now you have that issue of you know, at least at the replacement level, somebody's gonna have to go into the home to make that connection. But that gets into. You know, our private property owners going to be required Are on the hook for some of this cost and I know like. St Paul doesn't want to get to that. You know they want to pay for it, even even paying for the private side, but that's not always going to be the case. I don't know if you've heard any grumplings about that or there's been any Language. As far as the mandates are concerned as to what cities or Water utilities can charge, so with the last legislative session in Minnesota, again they made some statutory changes.

Chelsea Alger:

So the funding for replacement will be a hundred percent grant on the private side. On the public side it will be zero percent loan to the communities, but then the state is going to come back and pay those loans off with grant dollars. So it should be a hundred percent free for the replacement to both the community and the private homeowner, which makes I mean that gets over one major hurdle of If we have to replace these lines, who's going to pay for it. At least in Minnesota, for now it's entirely coming out of the state funds. Now that is not the case in Iowa, it's not the case where we also do work. It's not the case in North Carolina or South Carolina where they have these additional state resources so far. You know that could change, but Minnesota so far is the only area that we serve that has set up the funding this way, so there will not be a cost to the property owner. And also trying to Create as and Dave, you pointed this out earlier piggyback some of these projects on. Yeah on public projects that are already occurring. So if my street is going to be torn up to the property line, do I really care if they're going to come in and replace my Service line at the same time? Probably not as much as if they're going to come in and tear up my yard to do a service line Replacement. I mean, there there's going to have to be cases like that as well. But that's where the replacement planning comes in and cities can identify how many do we have? Where are they? Do we have other efforts going on that we can couple you know, these projects together and get it taken care of as seamlessly as we can?

David Malm:

yeah, I think they. You know, the carrot for a lot of this is Funding right for people to do it, but I don't think there's a stick for on the private side either, that anyone has to actually replace anything.

Marc Culver:

Well, that's good, that's. The really interesting thing is when you're talking about, and Part of the reason that that service line is private is so that the you don't need an easement To access that line. It's not the public agency's responsibility to access that. Well, now the public agency has to replace all these lines and they don't have easements over these so now they have to get Rights of entry, yeah, from all of these private property owners to do that. And then, depending on the method you use, if you're not going to directly bore it or something, if you're going to be tearing people's front, yards apart, and then you're talking landscaping.

David Malm:

It's gonna be messy, it's gonna be, messy.

Chelsea Alger:

Literally and figuratively.

David Malm:

Yes, yes, and you know I think for a lot of this is, you know we're still looking at, you know, the inventory piece, but you know, I don't think anybody has wanted to even bite that next step off yet as to what the logistics of that looks like, when you know we would like to get entry to your home to Inventory it. Right, we'll talk about digging it up later, right? Yeah, that'll be fun.

Marc Culver:

Yeah, yeah, it's a. It's an interesting. We're just at the very Start of this really really complicated issue and I and I know, like some agencies, like St Paul, they are actively replacing service lines. They're dealing with this now. I mean, there, they've tackled some of these issues already, but, yeah, it's not every Water provider out there, because there are some water providers that are lucky enough that they don't have to worry about replacing lead service lines, but there's plenty of them and most of the large ones, yeah, are historic enough where they're. They're gonna be dealing with this. So, um, so I'm I don't know what about like looking forward to beyond the $200 million, beyond the IAJ funds if you heard anything, chelsea, about like ongoing funding, support or anything beyond those two just very, very generally.

Chelsea Alger:

I mean they they're leading up to some of these legislative sessions. You know the agencies will talk very high level about potential additional resources coming, but they're still in, you know, planning stages so they aren't willing to show too many of their cards at this point. My guess would be again, given the historic nature of the support Minnesota has provided to our public finance agencies for water and sewer projects, we will see additional funding coming because I think they just recognize that that has to happen for this to be successful. So I'm hopeful and we have a good structure in place for allocating dollars through the public facilities authority and you know all states, I think, are going to funnel the replacement funding through their state revolving fund programs. Those are the agencies that are working directly with the EPA, getting funding allocations annually for their normal public infrastructure projects, and so I think our, our public facilities authority in Minnesota has done a good job of planning for this wave of replacements and we're really just seeing in this they they just released their 2024 funding list and there's a significant number of lead service line replacement projects on there because they were able to, you know, piggyback on their current application process and structure to get those projects on there. Then it comes to consultants like us who work with that program and our clients to ensure that they are taking the necessary steps to get their replacement projects on those lists so they can get access to the funding, because that's the only way to access the dollars is through that process well, good, it sounds like it.

Marc Culver:

There's, there's, there is some growing experience out there on this issue, but I think there's still a lot of communities out there that they're just waiting, yeah, for some funding, support, and that's going to be really interesting this summer to see where we are. But once the inventory is quote-unquote complete, it will also be interesting to see, you know, at each state level, you know, what is the true magnitude of this, of this issue, because we will have a lot of ideas, but it'll be interesting to see that actual, actual data anything else you guys want to

David Malm:

add. You know, I think if you know 30 nerds out there that are listening that haven't you know they have a stake in any of this and haven't started planning or thinking or looking at at things, you know it's whether there's funding or not, there's still things you can do to be proactive, right, you know we've had a lot of communities who are in the process of doing meter replacements, right. Right, they are doing eye and eye investigations and going into homes to, you know, check for sump pumps or water. So you know, softener, all of those types of things. Where they're, you're already being granted entry. Yeah, building permits, building permits, yeah, yes, absolutely anything that that that is going to allow you an opportunity to to get into a home to look is going to save you time and money down the road. But if you're there, just go look at them, go take a look, see what's there, take a photo. That's all you need to do. That that counts as proof for the in the home piece of it. That's going to be one of the bigger struggles for a lot of communities.

Marc Culver:

But even if you're doing that it would be who of you to be before you start that process. Have a system for managing all of that data and those pictures so that you don't have a thousand well, maybe, hopefully not a thousand, but 200 pictures sitting in a folder somewhere like where, where did we take that one which?

David Malm:

house. Was that one right? Yeah, yeah. So I mean talk to your local gis nerd. Yeah, have we?

Marc Culver:

know a few of those. Yes, yeah have them.

David Malm:

Help, you know, help you set up this, this uh, a solution that I was talking about, um. There's a specific um uh app for that, that is built for that, that allows you to just take your phone, go in. You can go in and you can mark it as not led, take the photo, hit submit and that particular property is done. It'll take you, you know, 90 seconds maybe to do that on top of what you know what you're doing and inside the home already. So it's you know those kinds of things that you can do now you know, even just you know, records, um organization, right, you know, yes, okay, maybe we can't start on the process, we're waiting for funding, we don't know any of that. But what records do you have now? Start doing research, start pulling things together, you know, go in that, look in that box in the back room and start digging through those, those mylar's, and find you know something that might have some information on it somewhere that hopefully was, was scribbled down somewhere. You know there's things that you can do to help prepare um and I think anything you can do ahead of time is going to help you down down the road anyway yeah, yeah, and I think this also is a great excuse, a great, um, I guess, a motivator to digitize.

Marc Culver:

Yes, you know, if, if, like you said, if you're talking about mylar's back in the back room or something, scan them. You know, even you know, work with somebody to help you do that, scan those things, digitize them so then you don't have to go to the back room when the next thing comes up that you have to look for I think one of the one of the side benefits to this for a lot of smaller communities is going to be that they will now have the the, the bones, the starting process of a asset management system.

David Malm:

Yeah, you know, light right in the beginning stages of managing your assets is knowing what you have and where they are right. So you start off with your water system. We're going to know where at least all of your connections are. You're going to have a GIS platform built out that you can you can build on from there. You know that's the again. Where do you start right? You've got part of it there. Well, now it's not that big of a ask to start putting in other thing. You know, put in your sewer system, put in your storm water system and a lot of those are on the same plan.

Marc Culver:

Set that you that your water system is on anyway, correct.

David Malm:

So so you know, I think there's going to be a lot of side benefit down the road where cities are really going to be able to manage their assets a lot better in the long run, which can help with funding. Right, you know, because if you don't know what you have and you don't know how old it is or where it is, how are you supposed to ask for dollars for it? So I think there's going to be some knock on effects from this if people are doing it the right way. Um, and planning ahead, yeah good good stuff.

Marc Culver:

Jossy, do you have anything you want to add?

Chelsea Alger:

I would just piggyback on that and say, you know, reiterate something I said earlier, that these dollars, for both inventory but more on the replacement side, are funneling through existing programs out there and if you're not familiar, you haven't worked with those. You know state revolving fund programs. Before familiarize yourself with that, what you know, every public funding source comes with some strings attached, right? So it's not going to be as simple. As you know, the government allocated this money and then my community is going to get it and then we can just start replacing. You know giving people money to replace their lead service line. So understand what those funding cycles are. What are the requirements, or work with a consultant, right, that is familiar with those, and prepare yourself for what are the application requirements, what are the contract requirements? What sort of time frames do I need to be thinking about to get through the approval process and access those funds, and what does it mean to be able to access those funds?

Marc Culver:

yeah and if you're uh, if you're in the boltman mink service area yes minnesota, iowa, north south carolina and colorado, north dakota north dakota, uh, salt kota, not yet, not yet working there. Give us a call. We're happy to help you out, even if you're outside of that, you know, if you're really lost for a starting place, give us a call, we'll help you find your starting place there and and I'm going to do my best in the show notes. I there's already. I've already compiled a bunch of links to the usepa sites on this issue, a little bit of the timeline of the flint michigan water crisis, just so we understand what you know kind of the impetus for all of this. But, uh, obviously we've got some good links in there from minnesota. We'll add some links for iowa and the carolinas and I'll do a little bit of homework offline and and try to add some links for as many of the states that I can and quote unquote, easily find, just so people have a good starting point on that as well. And well, those, you can find those in the show notes. So well, dav chelsea, thank you very much for your time. This has been very educational and, um, you know, hopefully we are in a much better place than we think we're going to be in a year from now. Um, but maybe we'll do a follow-up episode on on where we are and and what the uh, the replacement mandates, are looking like they're going to be so that's great. So thank you, thank you all right, and one last thing before you go. If you have enjoyed this episode and the podcast in general, this second season that we're starting off here, we ask that you help us spread the word uh, just uh, tell your colleagues about the podcast. Maybe do a little social media posts for us, uh, and we would really appreciate it. Thank you, nerds out.

Inventorying Lead Service Lines
Lead Service Line Challenges and Funding
Lead Line Funding Challenges and Delays
Lead Pipe Replacement Challenges and Funding
Lead Service Line Replacement Funding and Planning
Educational Conversation and Call for Support